In general, probate is the legal process that clears an estate executor to carry out the intentions of a deceased person’s will – including the payment of outstanding debts and distribution of remaining assets. If there is no will, or no executor named, a probate jurisdiction or court may appoint an administrator to resolve the dissolution of the estate, sometimes for a proportionate fee. But, probate can also demand painstaking accounting of details, depending on the size and complexity of the portfolio, and the various laws under which some contracts exist. Different jurisdictions across the country have different laws and legal terminology.

For example, in some cases, a simple transfer of funds may not even require probate, such as awarding a surviving spouse or named beneficiary the proceeds of an insurance policy. But, in other cases, property may need to be liquidated rather than directly inherited. It can get more complicated if assets are invested under specific terms or in another country. However, probate needn’t be overly complicated if plans are made in advance. So, have separate chats with your heir(s), your executor and your lawyer to ensure your intentions are made clear — and are set out in a legally binding will.